Salzburg, Austria · February 11, 1938

On this date in 1938 Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg arrived in Salzburg for a quick trip over the German border to confer with Adolf Hitler at his Bava­rian Alps resi­dence, the Berg­hof. An Aus­trian native, Hitler had been granted Ger­man citizen­ship in 1932. The following Janu­ary the Nazi Party leader was appointed Chan­cellor of Ger­many. In 1934 Schusch­nigg suc­ceeded to the top post in Austria after Chan­cellor Engel­bert Doll­fuss had been mur­dered in a failed coup d’état by mem­bers of the Aus­trian Nazi Party, a party that was secretly funded by the Ger­man Foreign Office in Berlin. Chan­cellor Schusch­nigg’s clan­des­tine meeting with Hitler on Febru­ary 12 was any­thing but plea­sant, Hitler in­sulting the Aus­trian leader and raving at one point: “I have only to give an order and your ridicu­lous de­fenses will be blown to bits!” Hitler gave the Aus­trian chan­cellor a dead­line of Febru­ary 15 to resign in favor of Aus­trian Nazi Party leader Arthur Seyss-Inquart, whose party Doll­fuss had banned, jailing many of its mem­bers. Once safely back in Aus­tria, Schusch­nigg worked against Ger­man machi­na­tions. He called for a March 13 nation­wide plebis­cite to demon­strate Aus­trian resolve against Ger­man coer­cion, poli­tical or other­wise, believing that Hitler would not risk an inter­na­tional inci­dent. The day before the sched­uled plebis­cite Ger­man troops marched into Aus­tria. Schusch­nigg was arrested (he and his wife were even­tu­ally sent to Sachsen­hausen, then Dachau con­cen­tra­tion camps), and Aus­trian Nazi Party leader Seyss-Inquart named him­self both chan­cellor and pre­si­dent of Austria, despite the refusal of the sitting presi­dent, Wilhelm Miklas, to resign his office. Hitler crossed the border shortly after­wards, wel­comed by thun­derous crowds, some cele­bra­tory scenes gen­u­ine, some staged. April 10 sham plebis­cites in both coun­tries showed 99 per­cent supported the An­schluss, or union with Ger­many. (British intel­li­gence, on the other hand, esti­mated that not more than 35 per­cent of Aus­trian voters had cast their ballots in favor of An­schluss.) After the elec­tions Austria became known as Ost­mark, “the Eastern Region,” and was fully in­cor­porated into Greater Ger­many (Gross­deutsch­land), a dream Hitler had laid out in his muddled, frightening blueprint, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), in 1925.

German-Austrian Anschluss, 1938

A triumphant Hitler enters Vienna, March 14, 1938

Above: Hundreds of thousands of Austrians lined the streets as Hitler and his entourage made a triumphal entry into Austria’s capital, Vienna, on March 14, 1938.

Kurt Schuschnigg, 1936 Arthur Seyss-Inquart with Hitler, 1938

Left: Austrian chancellor (1934–1938) and Father­land Front leader Kurt Schusch­nigg at a party rally, 1936. Schusch­nigg rejected Hitler’s Pan-German poli­tics; in­stead, he focused on pro­tecting Aus­tria’s inde­pen­dence during a decade of poli­tical un­rest in Cen­tral Europe. After the war and his release from German captiv­ity, Schusch­nigg emi­grated to the U.S., where he taught poli­tical science at Saint Louis Uni­versity in Mis­souri from 1948 to 1967. Schuschnigg returned to Austria where he died in 1977.

Right: Nazi Reich Governor Arthur Seyss-Inquart with Hitler in Vienna, 1938. During their February 1938 meeting at the Berg­hof, Hitler bullied Schusch­nigg into appointing Aus­trian Nazi Party leader Seyss-Inquart to head Aus­tria’s Ministry of Public Security, a post that gave Aus­trian Nazis full and un­limited con­trol of their country’s police forces. With the assis­tance of Seyss-Inquart’s post-An­schluss pup­pet govern­ment, the Nazis quickly em­barked on a cam­paign of repres­sion and ter­ror. Tens of thou­sands of Aus­trians, including Catholics, Social Demo­crats, Socialists, and Com­munists, were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Hitler’s Entry into Austria, March and April 1938. Also clips of Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Nuremberg, Germany, September 1937

WWII Chronicles book coverHistory buffs, there is good news! The Daily Chronicles of World War II is now avail­able as an ebook for $4.99 on Amazon.com. Con­taining a year’s worth of dated entries from this web­site, the ebook brings the story of this tumul­tu­ous era to life in a com­pelling, author­i­ta­tive, and suc­cinct man­ner. Fea­turing inven­tive naviga­tion aids, the ebook enables readers to instantly move for­ward or back­ward by month and date to dif­fer­ent dated entries. Simple and elegant! Click here to purchase the ebook.